About The Solidarity Project
In 2005 SafeNet and community and parish members of Santa Barbara, California, joined to form The Solidarity Project. This endeavor strove to create a place on the grounds of Old Mission Santa Barbara , and next door to St. Anthony's Seminary (SAS), that acknowledged and honored all who were hurt by the sexual abuse crisis. Moreover, it aimed to focus attention on individual and community healing.
The steering committee for the project included, Clement Krause, SAS alumnus, former friar, and St. Barbara parishioner; Angelica Jochim, Pastoral Outreach Coordinator and survivor advocate for the Franciscan Province; Kathleen Strittmatter, St. Barbara parishioner and Voice of the Faithful member; Paul Fericano, SAS alumnus, survivor, and SafeNet co-founder; and Jack Clark Robinson, O.F.M., friar, friend, and scholar.
The advisory committee for the project included, Alberic Smith, O.F.M, former guardian of Mission Santa Barbara, SAS alumnus, and a secondary survivor; John McCord, SAS alumnus, survivor, and SafeNet co-founder; Richard Juzix, O.F.M., former pastor of St. Barbara Parish and SAS alumnus; and Robert Alderette, SAS alumnus.
With the support in 2006 of Alberic Smith, O.F.M., Guardian of the Old Mission, and Richard Juzix, O.F.M., Pastor of St. Barbara Parish, the proposed site for the project was approved. The project included the placement of two plaques, one embedded in a rock and the other on a bench where people could sit, talk, and reflect. As a powerful symbol of unity, the chosen bench was one of the old athletic benches that former Franciscan Brother Clem Wehe built for the students at St. Anthony's Seminary in the early fifties. Using plank wood which he painted "Santa Barbara Blue," Clem fashioned and welded the steel bench supports from old bed frames taken from the attic of the freshman dormitory ("The Barn").
Negotiations with the new owners of the seminary to secure the bench for this project continued for more than three years. With the sad and unexpected news in June, 2009, that Clem had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given only a few months to live, talks moved more rapidly. On July 9, 2009, one of the athletic benches was finally transferred from the property at St. Anthony's Seminary to the Old Mission grounds.
The bench and rock are now located on a space that is situated approximately 300 feet from the Mission Renewal entrance in a peaceful area on the grass and under the trees, and adjacent to the Garden Street entrance/road shared by the Old Mission and St. Anthony's Seminary.
Two commemorative plaques have been designed for the site. The plaque on the rock honors everyone wounded by the sexual abuse crisis and is next to the bench. The plaque on the bench honors Clem Wehe's contribution.
The text for the plaque on the rock reads:
"From 1896 until 1987, Saint Anthony’s Seminary located next door nurtured and prepared hundreds of boys for the priesthood. There was great joy on this campus as well as great sorrow. With this dedication we celebrate the good and acknowledge the pain of those who were abused there -- a pain shared by their families, schoolmates, the friars, and the community. This bench and stone are symbols of our committment to the healing process and our will to reconcile our past with hope for the future. We embrace and honor all our memories."
The text for the plaque on the bench reads:
"This athletic bench was built in 1954 by former Franciscan Brother Clem Wehe, OFM, who was a handyman and a friend to hundreds of boys who attended St. Anthony's Seminary. Over the years many students and faculty members sat on this bench cheering for their teams, talking with each other, and spending time in quiet reflection. We invite all who sit here to hold this memory with us."
The Solidarity Memorial bench and plaque were officially dedicated on Saturday, July 18, 2009. The Solidarity Memorial rock and plaque were officially dedicated on Saturday, July 9, 2011.